Physiology vs. Psyche
Every academic or scientific discipline has its own pace and characteristics of development. Depending on the field this discipline belongs to; its development might be directly dependant on technological improvements or be only indirectly influenced by it. In other cases, development of the discipline might depend on the evolution of human society or general human perception of this discipline. On the other hand, there are such scientific disciplines which include all mentioned above aspects. Those disciplines are also characterized by diversity of approaches to their inner development and research of the target topic. The diversity of approaches might be explained by the fact that there are various aspects from which the target topic may be analyzed. Also this phenomenon can be explained by the fact that scientists just as people in general have specific inclinations to one or another way of thinking and perception of reality.
One of the mentioned above complex disciplines is psychology. According to some scholars, it is no longer possible to study psychology as one discipline, since it has so many, large subdivisions and sub-disciplines and generalization would deprive those sub-disciplines of their special value (Glassman & Hadad 2004, p 35). In any case, in order to understand psychology as discipline and its overall nature, one would have to analyze various perspectives or approaches to it. Due to the size limits of the present paper, the aim of this essay is to contrast and compare two approaches to psychology, particularly biological and psychodynamic. In context of this task, these approaches will be analyzed in their relation to perception of human behavior, its origins and incentives; aim and methodologies of research; ways of illness treatment; correspondence to the overall modern tendencies in psychology and their connection with academic debate on the topic.
The founding pillars.
The main difference between those two approaches and any other approaches is their perception of what is the main origin of human behavior and through exploration of which aspect of human nature the answer to this question can be found. In this context, these two approaches turn to have entirely opposite answers. According to the biological approach, which is embodied in a sub-discipline of biopsychology or physiological psychology, human behavior and subsequent experiences are derived from body functioning, particularly nervous system and brain (Plante 2010). In this context, any human activity is due to the specific electrochemical events taking place between neurons, as elements of general nervous system. In a long-termed perspective, bio-psychologists suggest that the way a certain nervous system and brain develop depends mainly on the genetic code of an individual. Subsequently, certain deviations in behavior and inclinations to specific activities might be derived from the inherited genes (Glassman & Hadad 2004).
While bio-psychologists concentrate on entirely materialistic and physiological conditionality of human behavior, representatives of psychodynamic approach pay attention to human psyche or personality (Jarvis 2000). In this context, they suggest that any human activity has double characteristics of motives. First of all, there are obvious or manifest motivation for a certain action, which might explain conditionality of certain event and response to it (Jarvis 2004). On the other hand, there is also a hidden (latent) motive for this behavior, which is dictated by human unconsciousness or primeval, animalistic part of psyche, which craves for nothing but satisfaction of its essential needs (Glassman & Hadad 2004). Sigmund Freud, as founder of psychoanalysis, a corner stone of psychodynamic approach, suggested that the latent element was formed during the early stages of individual’s development and much influenced by impacts of the surrounding environment (Jarvis 2004). In this context, he suggested five stages of psychosexual development, which are based on the idea that childhood experiences form the future adult’s behavior (Jarvis 2004).
Before getting into depth of how each approach explores human behavior, significant conceptual differences between two approaches can be already outlined. Except for the fact that each approach takes different side in bias of physics and psyche, they have some things in common. First of all, both approaches study the issue in long-termed, developmental perspective. Biopsychologists were viewing human nervous system in its development through time, just as psychoanalysts were exploring human psyche in its development from childhood to adulthood. On the other hand, in case of the first ones, the time of development was measured mainly by death, while the second ones where putting main limit by adulthood, suggesting that, at that point, psyche was already formed and it could not be changed entirely (Glassman & Hadad 2004). Another essential element of comparison is their time-space perspectives. In case of biopsychology, attention is paid to the long-termed development through life span of an individual, making comprehension of genetic code as a starting point of certain inclinations in human evolution. Thus, it can be concluded that biopsychologists aim at study of the future human behavior and its certain predictability (Jarvis 2000). On the other hand, psychoanalysts are looking for the answers for the present situation of an individual’s psyche in the individual’s past. Subsequently, the starting point is present and the answers are derived from the past, making this approach regressive in a sense of timeline. Therefore, another essential difference between two approaches is that biological is progressive in sense of time line, while psychodynamic is regressive (Glassman & Hadad 2004).
Psychoanalytic treatment is entirely different from biological both in its target and methods. The psychodynamic approach does not treat human body but personality and mentality of an individual. In this context, therapist’s main aim is to understand the inner reason of patient’s pathology and find the best way to make patient comprehend the initial problem and fixation which occurred (Jarvis 2004). In other words, psychoanalytical treatment is based on intellectual activity of therapist and good trustworthy relationship with the patient. Altogether this combination gives an opportunity to diagnose. In this context, the main emphasis of the treatment is placed on patient’s self-perception, desire to cure and ability to think critically. Unlike biopsychology, psychoanalytical treatment is randomly using medications in its process. Although, in certain cases, medications might be applied for the calming or insomnia; the emphasis is still placed on treatment of patient’s psyche and not physiology itself (Glassman & Hadad 2004).
Another important difference is that, unlike biopsychology, psychoanalysis explores the influence of social environment on an individual and involves third parties in treatment. The main assumption of psychoanalysis is that it is that mental state of an individual is partly due to an influence of the surrounding environment (Jarvis 2004). In this context, it might be suggested that psychoanalytical perspective is likely to use a systematic approach to the exploration of patient’s problem. This means its pays attention to the external factors. On the other hand, such approach is not common to biopsychology, which suggests that everything can be explained and resolved through manipulation of human physiology. This means that biopsychology does not pay much attention to the impact of surrounding environment on patient’s state (Glassman & Hadad 2004). Therefore, biopsychological perspective is narrower than the one of psychoanalysis.
Methods of human behavior’s exploration.
Since each approach places a different emphasis on the origin of human behavior and its conditionality, the ways of studying human behavior are also different. Since biopsychologists are inclined to study physiology of human brain, they are more likely to apply quantitative, scientific and objective methods of human behavior study (Glassman & Hadad 2004). In this context, the main attention would be paid of technological development, which gave an opportunity to study human brain and chemical process of nervous system. In this context, scientists would be using such technologies as PET and MRI in order to scan human brain and find connection between human mental diseases or deviant behavior and process of the brain depicted on scans (Plante 2010). The essence of this study is comparison of human behavior of healthy and ill individuals and analysis of the scientific, evidential data. In such way, the highest level of objectivity can be achieved (Jarvis 2000).
On the other hand, in case of genetic research, the emphasis would be placed on observational methods of the topic exploration, which would include investigation of twin connections and family genealogy. Unlike the previous direction of bio-psychology, this one concentrates exquisitely on mental illnesses which can be genetically inherited (Glassman & Hadad 2004). Therefore, the methods of this sub-division of biopsychology are specifically applicable for it. Other methods often applied by this discipline include observation and experiments on animal brains or exploration of brain functions during surgical operations like it was done by Wilder Penfield in 1950’s, when he stimulated various parts of cerebral cortex of patients he operated (Plante 2010). Another way of experimenting aimed at exploration of chemical conditionality of human behavior. In this case, people were injected different hormones and their behavior was attentively monitored. On the basis of this method, the direct connection between testosterone and aggressive behavior was explored (Jarvis 2000).
Unlike biopsychologists, psychoanalysts pay more attention to human individuality rather than generalization of people in their biological similarity and dependence on chemical reactions in brain and inheritance of mental diseases. They concentrate on qualitative method and exploration of case-studies. In this context, they place emphasis on individuality of their patient rather than generalization of him as biological species (Jarvis 2004). The main subject of qualitative analysis is an individual and his particular situation. In this context, the main aim of the psychoanalyst is to gather information about his patient, meaning what patient’s behavior on therapeutic session was; exploration of his free associations and interpretation of dreams (Glassman & Hadad 2004). In this context, therapist should be able to find repetitions of ideas or images and understand their symbolic meaning for an individual and their psychological conditionality for his/hers case (Jarvis 2004). In other words, psychoanalytical approach and its qualitative method may be explained as an art rather than a concrete science. Thus, it is case-sensitive and its success is very individual (Jarvis 2000).
Making a comparison of two approaches in the framework of their methodology, one might say that the main difference was already stated and that it was a bias of quantitative and qualitative approaches. In fact, this is true, but it is not the final result of this difference. It is essential to outline the consequential implications of such difference. In this context is meant criticism applied to each approach. The main reason for criticism of both approaches is objectivity and subjectivity bias which are derived from the mentioned above methodological preferences of each approach. Biopsychology is often criticized for the lack of individuality in its research and attitude to patients as biological totality of cells, rather than living individuals (Glassman & Hadad 2004). Thus, the level of objectivity is very high, if not to say discriminative in certain sense. On the other hand, the main critical result of psychoanalytical methodology is its subjectivity. In this context, psychoanalysts might be viewed as pseudo-scientists since their exploration of the topic is not concrete but rather interpretative (Jarvis 2000). Thus, the issue is that where actual science of psychoanalytical interpretation ends and personal perception of the case starts (Jarvis 2000). Therefore, from methodological perspective, psychodynamic approach turns to be too personal, individual and case-oriented, while biological approach is too generalizing, objective and mechanical in its perception of the patient. In other words, from methodological perspective, these approaches represent the extremes of subjective-objective bias of attitude (Glassman & Hadad 2004).
Critical evaluation and main debates.
The main critical dichotomy between two approaches is again subjectivity-objectivity correlation, but in a different dimension than it was mentioned above. In this case is meant the issue of reliability. Due to the fact that biopsychology bases its assumptions and treatment on scientific evidences of human physiological nature, it favors higher degree of general academic and public credibility than psychoanalysis (Jarvis 2000). The reason of this is that psychoanalysis was much criticized both by its followers and by opponents. The main argument was that psychoanalysis is based on therapist’s ability to judge which might be both subjective and might change with time (Jarvis 2004). The argument here is that, unlike biopsychologists, therapists might become emotionally involved with their patients, which would add subjectivity to diagnosis and challenge further treatment. Even Freud mentioned the problem of countertransference common for all therapists at certain stage of their practice. Freud admitted that he also had his own preferences and attachments to some patients (Jarvis 2004). On the other hand, in biopsychological practice such treat is minimal mainly because therapists see patients in different way than psychoanalysts, and they spend less time with them (Glassman & Hadad 2004).
Concerning main ethic-philosophical debates, both approaches have some common characteristics. First of all, both of them can be characterized as deterministic in their essential rational. This can be explained on the attitude of each approach to the nature-nurture dilemma. Biopsychology is entirely deterministic, because it suggests that human behavior is mainly derived from the innate genetic code and further development of nervous system and brain is conditioned by inborn capabilities (Glassman & Hadad 2004). Psychodynamic approach is dualistic in this concern because it agrees with the nature cause of things since the idea of unconsciousness is based on the assumption that some biological processes play roles of hidden motives behind actual human behavior (Jarvis 2004). On the other hand, it suggests that human behavior changes and polishes on the early stages of human development. Therefore, there is also a place for nurture in this approach (Glassman & Hadad 2004). In other words, psychodynamic approach is less deterministic than bio-psychological, but is not opposing to it.
One thing in which both approaches are entirely similar is their reductionist attitude to exploration of the issue. In case of biopsychology, it reduces conditionality of human behavior to a mere functionality of human physiology, leaving no space for free will and impact of social and family environments (Jarvis 2000). On the other hand, psychodynamic approach reduces the complexity of human behavior to the simplicity of animalistic, primeval instincts, which are considered to be the main, true motives for human behavior (Jarvis 2004). In both cases, human individual is reduced either to his biological functionality or to his animalistic instincts. Both approaches applied alone would have minimized human complexity and personal uniqueness, which are crucial for comprehension of human psychology and conditionality of behavior.
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